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Summary:

Many analysts and tech pundits spend a lot of time wailing and gnashing their teeth over the supposed demise of Apple, should something happen to Steve Jobs. I find it especially amusing that many of them seem to be the same ones who give Jobs little […]

Many analysts and tech pundits spend a lot of time wailing and gnashing their teeth over the supposed demise of Apple, should something happen to Steve Jobs. I find it especially amusing that many of them seem to be the same ones who give Jobs little credit for Apple’s success (it’s all Jon Ive, or marketing, or the Apple faithful, or blah, blah, blah), but still claim Apple would be lost without him. I wish they’d make up their minds.

Finally, there’s a more level-headed analyst out there who realizes that life (and companies) do go on. Ezra Gottheil, of Technology Business Research, Inc., outlines why Apple will be OK when Steve Jobs departs.

“Apple doesn’t need Jobs anymore,” Gottheil said. “He’s established three sound businesses — Mac, iPod and the iPhone – and the company knows how to execute his fanatical devotion to design and usability. There’s a stable management team in place, and they know what they’re doing.”

He’s right. For as much credit as Jobs (deservedly) gets, he has assembled a crack management team that is executing almost flawlessly.

Gottheil suggests the intelligent choice of Tim Cook running the company in Jobs’ absence. That would be my preference, though given that Ron Johnson was the driving force behind Apple’s retail presence going from nothing to a model of the industry, I think he would be a good choice as well.

It seems the popular choice to replace Jobs is Jonathan Ive, but I believe Ive’s nature, his shyness, precludes him from being in such a spotlight. While Apple has allowed Phil Schiller and Scott Forestall to have the limelight in various keynotes and presentations, you don’t see Ive in such situations. Are they trying to hide him? Hardly. I believe he shuns that sort of thing. A much better strategy is to let Ive become the primary creative force within the company. Gottheil suggests Ive could “pick up the reins” on product design. A wise move, in my opinion.

Meanwhile, Apple should continue to use Schiller and Forestall (and perhaps some newcomers) for product introductions after Jobs leaves. I don’t see the CEO continuing that function, and while no one gives a keynote like Steve, Phil and Scott do it well and are clearly very enthusiastic about the products.

I certainly don’t mean to imply that there’s no harm if Apple loses Jobs. Indeed, from the above you can see I believe his tasks must essentially be spread out amongst a group. But it’s not as if there’s no harm if Apple lost any other member of their excellent management team. These are holes not easy to fill. Still, the loss of one individual, even Jobs, is not going to derail this train when there are many experienced hands at the controls.

  1. 2 words: John Sculley

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  2. Isn’t it also true that, in financial markets, perception is reality? If people believe that Apple’s going down after Jobs’ departure then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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  3. the apple brand is damn strong. Apple can at this stage transition to a new CEO with minimal angst.

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  4. Raddevon,

    A lot depends on the conditions under which Jobs leaves. If he transitions away like, for example, Bill Gates did at Microsoft, I think things are just fine.

    On the other hand, if he’s hit by a beer truck tomorrow then, yes, the initial perception would likely cause the stock to nose dive. But that is only temporary. As the existing management team proves that Apple is healthy and viable, showing a few quarters of growth, profits, etc., then the normal stock valuation will occur.

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  5. There are tens of thousands of companies in America, and only one or two that continually produce innovative products that people want. I believe it’s because there’s someone at the top (in this case Steve Jobs) who: 1) has a goal or vision; 2) has a set of limits (in this case the design); 3) and is business like (read obnoxious) enough to get rid of everyone at the company that doesn’t produce what he wants them to.

    So if Steve Jobs left Apple, Apple would be fine for three or five years, but then would drift into mediocrity.

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  6. “2 words: John Sculley”

    That made me laugh. While I’m not one of the Sculley-haters (I always like to point out some of Apple’s best stuff came out during Sculley’s tenure), Sculley is really quite boring. He spoke at the WWDCs and he was very dull. He usually left it to others (ie Gassee), though, to introduce products and he mostly talked about the company.

    I’d probably go with Scott over Phil, though. Phil has this “sleazy used car salesman” aura, In my opinion.

    Part of Steve’s reality distortion field comes from the fact that you believe Steve when he says, “This is really cool.” Even the most resistant believe that Steve believes this is really cool. Nobody seems to think that Steve is lying, in other words.

    Phil seems to lack that sincerity, though. When Phil says, “This is really cool,” I just don’t believe him. He seems like he’d say anything to convince you to buy the product.

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  7. I like all those guys you mentioned in their current positions, that’s Cook, and Johnson, and Forstall, and Shiller and Ive. The guy I’d want to succeed Steve would be one of two people. They have to be visionaries, like Steve, with charisma. And, one works for Apple, and one used to work for Apple. They are Bertrand Serlet and Guy Kawasaki. Bertrand is on the management team, and has been involved in WWDC presentations before. Remember the guy who made fun of MS’s Vista, and how it copied much of Leopard? Yes, I know he has a funny french accent, but he’s got a strong tech background, has been with Jobs since Next and has a strong charismatic personality. Perfect. As for Guy, he was the original Mac Evangelist, and is a great communicator. He’d be perfect too.

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  8. @raddevon: Basing decisions on the perception that something is true adds credence to the perception and further errors in judgement.

    One of the reasons the financial markets are in the mess they are in is that everyone bought into the perception that housing prices were real ( $500,000 for 2000 square foot homes is insane ) and that prices would rise indefinitely.

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  9. [...] the keynote, as opposed to Jobs, is a new source for rumors in itself. We’ve written about a world without Jobs before, but this seems to solidify the company’s position even [...]

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